What: Corey Hart with Glass Tiger
Where: Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre, 1925 Blanshard St.
When: Monday, June 24, 7 p.m. (doors at 6)
Tickets: $52.50, $72.50, and $102.50 from selectyourtickets.com, by phone at 250-220-7777, or in person at the Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre box office
Before his official comeback tour of Canada got underway this spring in St. John’s, N.L., singer Corey Hart had played five shows of his own since 1999.
One of those was a 2014 concert at the Bell Centre in his native Montreal, staged so that his four children could finally see what their dad did for a living for the better part of the 1980s. Hart figured that his first show since 2002 would be the coda to his career, and planned to retire for good following the performance.
His youngest son, who was 10 at the time, urged Hart to return to the stage on a regular basis, but Hart was resolute.
“He was saying: ‘Daddy you should be doing this more — we love it.’ But I was shaped by the fact I grew up not having a dad to raise me, so I didn’t want that to happen for my kids.”
Fast forward to 2019, and 57-year-old Hart is midway through a summer tour — with July dates in Japan to follow — that may or may not mark the official end to his retirement.
He has a few Canadian dates left, including his first show in Victoria since 1984, next week. When the run has come to a close, he’ll reassess his priorities.
Hart didn’t give any hints about his decision, however, other than to say the reason he left in the first place is the same one that will send him back to his dad duties in September.
“Most people get to come home and have dinner and sleep in their own bed. My job, you’re away from home. For me, the two worlds don’t reconcile.
“The leaving was definitely by design in 1999. We had three little girls and I couldn’t be tethered to my career. But the way everything has unfolded in 2019 is quite magical.”
Hart was back in Montreal last week during a break from the tour, which began on May 31. He hasn’t been based there since 1996. Hart now lives in the Bahamas with his wife, former Quebec pop star Julie Masse, and children — but being back in Montreal had his memory in overdrive.
In 1983, Hart’s debut album, First Offense, made him one of the biggest stars in Canada, and a surging talent in the U.S.
The album’s unassailable hit, Sunglasses at Night, earned him a Grammy nomination for best new artist and became a touchstone for the video generation, catapulting Hart onto a trajectory only matched in Canada at the time by Bryan Adams.
Most days, Hart couldn’t leave his house, and he began to have a love-hate relationship with Montreal.
His second album, Boy in the Box, released in 1985 when Hart was just 23, was an even bigger success. The album hit the million-sold mark faster than any album in Canadian history and produced four hits, including Never Surrender.
To date, Hart has sold more than 16 million records worldwide and has three Juno Awards from 22 career nominations. This year, he was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame.
The current tour has prompted the softly spoken, but driven, performer to revisit his glory days with fondness. He doesn’t regret the decisions he made, but is happy that his current tour is focused more on his music than the mania of his rock-star years, as it has allowed him to connect with fans on a new level.
“Things have certainly changed since I did my run in the ’80s. I was a young man barely out of my teens, and there was this whole phenomena going on. I don’t want to say Beatlemania, but it was Coreymania.
“This time, I’m trying to do things I wish I was able to accomplish back then, but was too young to understand. My demographic of fan was different then, so it wouldn’t have been possible to do what I’m doing now.”
The noted perfectionist was heavily involved in every aspect of planning his comeback tour, which, Hart said, favours the intimate.
He has new music to promote, and has enjoyed the audience response to the range of material in his set, which includes a Coldplay cover.
Better still, while fans have come to see the hits, they certainly aren’t hitting the exits when he plays songs from Dreaming Time Again, his first set of new music in more than 20 years.
The 17-date tour comes to a close in Vancouver on Tuesday, and Hart admitted that it took until the halfway point for him to feel like he was at his best on this tour.
“It’s a young man’s sport,” he said with a laugh. “I’m not complaining about it, but thinking about the Rolling Stones, and people like that. I don’t know how they do it. I go all out, and put 150 per cent into everything I do, whether it’s making an omelette or raising my kids or making an album. I’m really intense. I work really hard to try and do things right, and that takes a lot out of me.”
Hart received regular offers to perform during his respite from the stage, some of them lucrative. It was ultimately Bob Ezrin who played a key role in his return, as the Pink Floyd producer (and Toronto native) was the one who coaxed him back into the studio after an extended break.
Hart has collaborated with singers such as Céline Dion in recent years, but the 2014 release Ten Thousand Horses, which featured a few new songs in addition to remixes of his old hits, was the only new music fans had heard from Hart since his 1998 album Jade.
Ezrin wanted to correct that. The pair recorded six new songs for Dreaming Time Again, including collaborations with Jim Cuddy of Blue Rodeo and Alan Doyle of Great Big Sea.
“I said if I ever went back on the road again, I wanted to have new music so my fans could hear how I evolved as a writer and musician. Bob was the one who said: ‘I’d love to work with you if you’re up for it.’ ”
Hart said he is better equipped to handle the spotlight these days, having gone through the rise and fall of pop stardom decades ago.
He’s still a popular attraction, especially in Canada, and the ability to return on his own terms, with thousands of fans at the ready, is something he does not take for granted.
“I called my second album Boy in a Box because I did feel isolated. It was so crazy. I couldn’t go anywhere without people mobbing me.
“That was the type of fanbase I had. Duran Duran had the same thing, so it’s not unique to me. But it happened so fast, and I wasn’t expecting that. I didn’t understand it. I’ve always been about my songs and about my music.
“The ones who liked me because of the way that I looked, those fans are not there anymore. The fans that are coming now are the ones that understood the music and resonated with the music.”